Jerusalem, December 2000

In a few days, Jews all over the world will fast, mourn and pray, remembering the day — Tevet 10 on the Jewish calendar — on which began the siege on Jerusalem by the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar, which led to the conquest of the city, the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the expulsion of the people of Israel from their land.

Today, 2,425 years later, Jerusalem is once again under siege. Oh, you can get into your car and drive west to Tel Aviv (though venturing north, east or south is quite a different matter), and the supermarkets are stocked with Corn Flakes and low-fat yogurt. But it is a siege as terrible and as deadly as any the city has known.

As I sit writing these words a stone's throw from downtown Jerusalem, I can hear the shooting at the apartment houses of Gilo, two neighborhoods over, from the abutting Arab village of Beit Jalla. In and around the city and throughout the country, the enemy hurls rocks, bullets and bombs at Jewish soldiers and schoolbuses. While the six Dovidovitch children contemplate the loss of their mother and 8-year-old Tehillah Cohen contemplates the loss of her two legs, diplomats scurry about pushing "position papers" and TV commentators and newspaper columnists revile the Jews for refusing to lay down their weapons and board the cattle cars like good little boys and girls. The killers are driven by hate, the pundits and politicians by vanity and naiveté; together, they would rip the heart of Israel from its body.

But even more frightening is the way history is repeating itself. The Talmud describes how, instead of uniting against the common enemy, Jewish factions battled each other in besieged Jerusalem. "Because of baseless hatred between Jews," concludes the Talmud, "was Jerusalem destroyed."

Why, asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe, does the Talmud insist that the hate was "baseless"? Were there not reasons, both ideological and pragmatic, for the divisions amongst the Jews? But no reason, explains the Rebbe, is reason enough for hate. The commonality of our fate runs so much deeper than any possible cause for animosity. All hate, then, is baseless hatred.

So if "baseless hatred" was the cause of the destruction, continues the Rebbe, its remedy is "baseless love"--our rediscovery of the intrinsic unity which overrides all reasons for discord and strife.

Pray for Jerusalem, encourage and aid its defenders, and show love to a fellow Jew—no matter how he or she differs from you. For if there is one redeeming virtue in being under siege, it is the opportunity to realize that we're all in this together.